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Pages tagged "Housing and Urban Development"

Question: Regional Housing Affordability

31 May 2022

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development.


The Hon. C.M. Scriven: About?


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: About the topic of housing affordability. Don't worry, minister, it's not the budget. As reported in The Advertiser on Saturday, the quarterly HOOD.ai tenant report has identified areas where rent costs are skyrocketing. The report showed that rural and regional areas are some of those that have seen the steepest rent increases over the last years in areas such as Kapunda, Mount Gambier and McLaren Flat.


Last week, the Mount Gambier Messenger reported that in Mount Gambier the cost of renting a house has increased by 7 per cent since January, while renting a unit has increased by 4.7 per cent. For some renters, that is an extra $30 a week that they are having to pay to keep a roof over their head.


With vacancy rates in Mount Gambier at 0.25 per cent, rising rental properties added to low vacancy rates are pushing people towards homelessness. In recent weeks, my office has received calls from constituents who are struggling to find rental accommodation. One constituent told us of the McLaren Vale Lakeside Caravan Park, where a number of people are now living after being displaced from rental accommodation. These people have jobs, but they are unable to find a place to rent.


My question to the minister therefore is: is the government aware of these reports and what strategies are being adopted to address these?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question about an incredibly important issue which is faced not only here in Adelaide but throughout our regional areas. This is something that I have been hearing about firsthand on my various visits to regional areas and of course the honourable member referred to Mount Gambier, which is my home area.


I, too, am hearing these stories, these incredibly difficult stories to hear, of incredibly difficult circumstances. As the honourable member mentioned, or perhaps alluded to without saying so in so many words, I think often people think of homelessness as those who are in desperate financial circumstances, people who don't have work and don't have other social supports, but as he has rightly pointed out, in many cases because of the huge increases in rentals over the last couple of years in particular, there are people who have full-time jobs who still can't afford to rent.


I have heard of people turning up to an open inspection for a rental in Mount Gambier and there being 50 other applicants. I was speaking a few weeks ago at an event and afterwards one gentleman who came up to speak to me said that he had moved to Mount Gambier—again, in this case Mount Gambier—last year. He was working in mental health, which is an area of very high need and regional areas find it very difficult to attract health professionals and retain them. He was loving Mount Gambier. He wanted to stay, and yet for six months he had been without his own house or unit. He was unable to acquire a rental, despite the fact he was a quite well paid health professional.


Similarly, I have heard of two teachers who were working in the local high school, who were very happy to be there. Again, they loved Mount Gambier, because of course Mount Gambier is one of the best places in the state. However, they spent two terms living in a caravan in a caravan park, and that is not something that they wanted to continue to do, which is entirely understandable. Unfortunately, my region has now lost those two teachers, who have returned to, I think it was, Melbourne.


In terms of the Malinauskas Labor government's commitments in regional housing, of course we have made commitments to 150 new homes in regional areas, the building of those, and this is on top of bringing homes back up to the standard that is needed. Some of these homes have spent months or even years vacant. Unfortunately, those issues weren't addressed sufficiently by the former government.


This is in addition to our maintenance blitz on 3,000 homes across the state. Those particular initiatives that I have mentioned are all being funded with new money. That is a part of our commitment, and of course the Minister for Human Services in the other place is working very hard and very diligently on social housing, and across the term, because housing touches many portfolios, we are looking at ways to increase the housing stock both for purchasers and for renters.


The regional development associations across the state have also done a lot of work over the last couple of years in trying to address this issue, and so with my regional development hat on I will continue to work with them and my other parliamentary colleagues to continue to try to address this very important issue.

 

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: does the minister concede that building just 150 new homes in the regions is insufficient? Will she be advocating for her colleagues at a state level to build more housing in the regions, and will she be advocating for the Albanese Labor government to invest more money in public housing in South Australia?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): Thank you for the supplementary question. I think we need to take all the steps that we possibly can to address this issue. As has been mentioned, it is rental housing, it is affordable housing to buy. It is all sorts, all types of housing. It is executive level housing in regional areas as well. All of those are facing a lack of supply, and so we need to use all the mechanisms we possibly can to address these issues.


Certainly, that will include liaising with the new federal government, the Albanese federal government. I don't think the announcement about who is getting what portfolio federally has come out yet, unless it has been today and I haven't had a chance to catch up with the latest news, but I will certainly be working with my state parliamentary colleagues and federal ministers to try to address this issue.


Question: More Public Housing for SA

18 May 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the minister representing the Minister for Human Services.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, the University of South Australia, and I believe Housing Australia, released a report, Beyond the Housing Crisis: A Home for All, regarding South Australia's housing crisis. The report found that rental availability and affordability are at an all-time low across the country, with more than 6,000 people experiencing homelessness each night in South Australia and more than 30,000 people now on the state's housing wait list.


This is a dramatic increase from last year, when it was reported that 16,000 people were waiting for a home. I note that the Labor Party, when in opposition at that time, were very critical of the then Liberal state government's handling of the matter. Those numbers have doubled in a year. With vacancy rates low, finding suitable rental properties is very difficult. To quote Professor Beer from the University of South Australia:


Rental availability is at its worst in South Australia where vacancy rates hit 0.2 per cent in March 2022.


Having a roof over your head is a basic human right, but here in South Australia our system is not coping. Survey data from the report shows that South Australians feel impacted by the housing crisis and do not think the government is doing enough. My question to the minister is:

  1. What is the Malinauskas government doing to address the housing crisis, particularly for people who are unable to find basic rental properties?
  2. Will the government commit to building more housing?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his very important question. I would expect that everyone in this chamber should be aware of the housing crisis that South Australia is facing, and elsewhere around the country as well. Certainly, in many regional areas in particular, in which I have a particular interest, I have been speaking with many people about the issues around housing and the increase in homelessness.


It is important to note that that homelessness is not simply confined to people who are sleeping rough on the streets, but many people who perhaps have a roof over their head tonight but it might not be available tomorrow—it might be a different one tomorrow. There are those terrible social impacts on individuals and on families, but there are also the impacts on the economy. We are finding, particularly in regional areas, that a lack of housing is preventing people taking up jobs in regional areas, which of course then becomes a vicious cycle.


Certainly, in terms of further detail I refer to my colleague in the other place the Minister for Human Services, but of course there were a number of announcements prior to the election in terms of what the Malinauskas Labor government will be doing in terms of housing, and I'm happy to bring back further information and detail to this place.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: given the inadequacy of the government's housing plan, will the minister be advocating for more investment in housing for the regions?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I am assuming that the member is referring to the inadequacy of the former government's plans, which I think everyone would agree were—


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Point of order: I was actually referring to the Malinauskas government's inadequate plan to build 400 public homes—totally insufficient.


The PRESIDENT: It's not a point of order; it's not how we deal with it. Minister, you answer your question and then, if you have a further supplementary, the Hon. Mr Simms will do that.


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I think, even if that wasn't the intent of this member's question, the feedback I have had about the former government was certainly that their plans were entirely inadequate and their plans for regional areas were—most people weren't even aware of any.


Of course, it's always important to be advocating for an appropriate level of housing and that includes social housing and all other levels of housing. It's important from, as I mentioned, a social point of view, from a rights point of view, as the member correctly pointed out, and also from an economic point of view.

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (reply given on 15/11/22)

 

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Human Services has advised:

The Malinauskas Labor government promised more than $180 million for housing and homelessness at the 2022 election.

This includes $177.5 million in additional capital funding for the South Australian Housing Trust to build 400 new homes, bring 350 vacant properties back up to standard so they can be homes and conduct a maintenance blitz on 3,000 homes. 150 of the new homes will be built in regional areas.

The 400 new homes will include a dedicated 50-unit complex with onsite supports to help people exiting homelessness. The onsite supports are backed by a commitment of $4 million over four years and we have also provided an additional $6 million to Catherine House, St Vincent de Paul and the Hutt St Centre to boost homelessness supports in the CBD.

The Albanese federal Labor government has also committed to a $10 billion Housing Futures Fund that will deliver 30,000 social and affordable homes over five years and I look forward to working with federal Labor to ensure that South Australia maximises outcomes from this initiative.

We are reviewing the Emergency Accommodation Program that is currently spending almost $10 million per year on motel accommodation for people with nowhere else to go. While this program provides critical shelter, parents with children need cooking facilities and places for children to play that motel rooms can't offer.

The Malinauskas Labor government has also committed to establishing a task force to examine the housing challenges faced by older women.

The building industry is facing historic challenges–many brought about by the Liberal Party's HomeBuilder scheme that gave out $25,000 grants with no requirement for funds to support more accessible or affordable housing. These grants simply made already expensive homes even more unaffordable and have caused massive delays for tradies to undertake other work. In view of this, we are exploring innovative housing options that can be delivered faster and with less reliance on traditional industry supply chains.


Question: Renters Rights

5 May 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the minister representing the Minister for Human Services and the minister representing the Minister for Housing, the Hon. Clare Scriven MLC, on the topic of rental rights.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Today, the Adelaide Advertiser featured a full-page spread on the plight of renters here in South Australia. I refer the chamber to the articles, on page 8 of today's paper, by Miles Kemp. Under the headline, 'Rental as anything—desperate would-be tenants offering up to $100 above asking prices', Mr Kemp reports on the practice of rental bidding, whereby prospective tenants are offering money above the asking price and reports that this is widespread in our state. Mr Kemp also reports, under the headline, 'Rent help plea for battlers', that:

The welfare sector has warned of an extreme power imbalance between existing tenants and property owners because of the rental crisis.

The article goes on to quote from Mr Mark Henley, the manager of Uniting Communities:

Tenants are putting up with very poor housing for fear of being noticed by landlords who will then put up their rent. The power imbalance is extreme between renter and landlord at the moment.

The article features an image of a tenant, Simon Flaherty, who is battling with his real estate agent to have asbestos contamination issues addressed in the home that he rents with his family. My question to the minister therefore is: what advice does the minister have for struggling tenants like Simon, and what action will the government take to strengthen the rights of renters in South Australia by ending no-cause evictions and prohibiting rent bidding?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question about such a very important issue to so many South Australians. I am happy to refer that question to my colleague in the other place and bring back an answer to the council.

 

Reply received on 15 November 2022:

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Consumer and Business Services has provided the following advice:

The Malinauskas government appreciates the critical importance of housing affordability and shelter and acknowledges that there are currently many pressures affecting access to rental accommodation.

I have asked the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, responsible for administration of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (act), for advice on a range of issues currently affecting the residential tenancies sector, which will inform the government's consideration on the best way forward for South Australia.

Any proposed reforms to address these issues will be subject to broad consultation with the sector, providing an opportunity for interested parties to make a submission.

The government also provides a range of services to protect and support renters including the Housing Safety Authority that administers the Housing Improvement Act 2016 (the act) to ensure residential premises meet minimum standards for health and safety. The Housing Safety Authority inspected the home referenced in the question and acted in accordance with the act. The government also funds RentRight SA that provides advice and advocacy for renters.


Motion: Cost of Living

4 May 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:


That this council-

  1. Recognises that:
    • (a) inflation in Australia is at its highest level in more than 20 years putting enormous pressure on South Australians, particularly those on low incomes; and
    • (b) the cost of living is soaring with South Australians facing price hikes on food, fuel, housing and other essentials.
  2. Notes the release of the Anglicare Australia Rental Affordability Snapshot 2022 which found:
    • (a) only two of 1,125 homes on the market in Greater Adelaide were affordable for single people living on the minimum wage;
    • (b) none of the homes on the market were affordable for single people living on pensions or income support; and
    • (c) none of the homes in regional and rural South Australia were affordable for a single person without dependents living on income support.
  3. Calls on the Malinauskas government to take steps to relieve the cost-of-living pressures faced by South Australians in its first budget by:
    • (a) making public transport free;
    • (b) introducing rent caps and rent subsidies;
    • (c) increasing the wages of public sector workers;
    • (d) abolishing materials and services charges and subject fees for public school students; and
    • (e) significantly increasing the investment in public housing.


The motion I am moving today recognises that cost-of-living pressures in South Australia are continuing to soar. Inflation in Australia is at its highest level in more than 20 years and that puts huge pressure on South Australians, particularly those on low incomes. We have the cost of living soaring, with South Australians facing price hikes on food, fuel, housing and other essentials.


This comes at a time when interest rates have been increased for the first time in 11 years and when the Anglicare Australia Rental Affordability Snapshot 2022 study found that there are only two out of 1,125 homes on the market in Greater Adelaide that are affordable for people living on the minimum wage. None of the homes on the market were affordable for single people living on pensions or income support—not one—and none of the homes in regional and rural South Australia were affordable for single people living without dependents trying to live on income support.


This is the backdrop against which the Malinauskas government will hand down its first budget. We in the Greens are calling for the new government to take action to reduce cost-of-living pressures on South Australian families. I recognise that this is not the sole responsibility of the federal government. We know our Prime Minister does not hold a hose. He has taken no action in relation to spiralling inflation and has taken no action to ensure that we see wage growth in our country or to improve the conditions facing working Australians.


It is very interesting for me to note that whilst the Liberal Party claim that they are the superior economic managers, they have been in government on both occasions over the last 12 years when interest rates have increased. It is also curious to note that they are running advertising at the moment claiming to be able to control interest rates, yet they deny any responsibility for the increase in interest rates that is occurring.


We know that interest rates are set by the Reserve Bank, and that is an independent process, but it is incumbent on governments to provide cost-of-living relief to families. It is in that spirit that the Greens are making these suggestions.


There are some really clear things that the South Australian government could do to help people who are struggling at the moment. They could make public transport free. They could introduce rent caps and rent subsidies to help people who are struggling to pay their rent. They could increase the wages of public sector workers. They could scrap public school fees because at the moment we know that parents are slugged extensive materials and services charges and subject fees. They could also increase the investment in public housing beyond the mere 400 houses that they have pledged to build in their first budget.


You may ask, Mr President, it is all very well for the Greens to put these ideas on the table but how on earth would a new government pay for them? Well, one of the things that we did in the recent election campaign is announce a suite of potential revenue measures for the new government to consider, whether that be Labor or Liberal, and we are certainly going to put those ideas back on the table in this parliament.


What we found was that we could potentially generate $7 billion of revenue by ensuring that developers pay their fair share of tax and by ensuring that they pay a tax on the benefits that flow from rezoning, as occurs in other jurisdictions like the ACT and as has been proposed in Victoria. We could generate a new revenue by finally increasing mining royalties. They have not had an increase in the last 15 years and it is high time they made more of a contribution. We could also generate more money through a levy being imposed on the big banks, banks that we know are going to be raking in record profits particularly as interest rates continue to rise.


That is not a new idea. It is an idea that the Labor Party put on the table when they were last in government and that they then abandoned following a campaign from vested interests. We hope that the new Malinauskas Labor government does have the moral strength to stand up to the vested interests, does not fall into the same trap as the failed Marshall government—and that is to capitulate to the big end of town—but instead shows the leadership we need to get our state back on track and provides relief to families who are struggling in the middle of this economic crisis.


South Australians need relief now. The ideas that the Greens are putting forward in the lead-up to this state budget are sensible. They would have an immediate effect and they reflect the kinds of priorities we would like to see from this new government. I urge Premier Malinauskas and our new Treasurer Mullighan to take note of this motion that the Greens have put forward, to listen to the debate and to consult with us. We would be very happy to give them some ideas for the kinds of actions they could take to help South Australians who are struggling at the moment.


Question: Affordable Housing

3 May 2022

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Hon. Clare Scriven, the minister representing the Minister for Housing and Urban Development, on the topic of public housing in South Australia.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, Anglicare released their annual Rental Affordability Snapshot of 2022. Their report shows that in Greater Adelaide only two rentals are affordable and appropriate for a single person on the minimum wage—just two. In regional and rural South Australia, none of the available homes are affordable for a single person without dependents living on income support. The new Malinauskas government has committed to building just 400 new public homes with the next state budget, yet the waitlist for social housing is 16,000 people.


My question to the minister is: does the minister concede that just 400 new homes across the state and just 150 in the regions is well short of what is required to address South Australia's housing affordability crisis?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. Of course, his question highlights the awful record of the previous Marshall Liberal government over the last four years in terms of addressing housing affordability and the rental crisis that we have.


Both whilst I was in opposition and also since as minister, I spent a lot of time in regional South Australia, and I live in regional South Australia myself. It has been absolutely devastating to witness people living in their cars, people living in caravans, people couch surfing, and we have seen even homelessness services having to provide tents as a housing alternative because under the previous Liberal government there were so few steps taken to address the housing affordability crisis and in particular the rental affordability crisis.


In contrast, Labor's election commitments included more than $180 million in new funding to the South Australian Housing Trust and to our homelessness services. On 25 April, Labor announced $6 million in additional funding for critical inner-city homelessness services: the Hutt St Centre, St Vincent De Paul and Catherine House. Of course, those services had lost funding under the previous Liberal government's so-called reforms.


Our commitment does include 400 new homes, including 150 homes in regional areas, and also 350 empty homes being brought back to an appropriate standard, and a maintenance blitz of 3,000 public housing properties. The South Australian Housing Trust, I am advised, has also already identified properties in regional areas to benefit from upgrades and maintenance. The total additional spending in regional areas will be tens of millions of dollars. This will support local jobs while providing safe and affordable housing in our regional areas.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: I note the minister's response. Does she therefore acknowledge that 400 new homes is simply not enough, and will she be advocating for more funding in the Malinauskas budget?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): As I mentioned, there are also commitments in regard to bringing back houses to appropriate standards and maintenance on public housing properties. However, I will refer the member's question to the responsible minister in the other place and bring back a reply, if there is further information to add.

 

Reply given on 14 June 2022:

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Human Services has provided the following advice:

The state budget includes more than $177 million in additional capital funding for the South Australian Housing Trust to build 400 new homes, bring 350 vacant properties back up to standard so they can be homes again and to conduct a maintenance blitz on 3,000 homes.

The 400 new homes will include 150 in regional areas and a 50-unit complex with onsite supports that will be funded by a further $4 million in the budget.

Federal Labor has also committed to deliver a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund which will build 30,000 new social and affordable housing properties in its first five years. The Malinauskas Labor government is looking forward to working with a federal government that is committed to addressing housing and homelessness.

 

 

 


Motion: COVID-19 Rental Affordability

10 February 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:


That this council—

  1. Notes the extension to the moratorium on eviction from residential tenancies for the non-payment of rent due to severe rental distress as a result of COVID-19, expired in December.
  2. Recognises that the current outbreak of the Omicron variant, and subsequent restrictions have had a devastating impact on businesses across the state, particularly those in the CBD, with many now being unable to meet rent payments.
  3. Calls on the Marshall government to—
    1. (a) immediately provide a moratorium on eviction for residential and commercial tenancies for six months in circumstances where tenants are unable to pay their rent due to COVID-19; and
    2. (b) provide a more generous and effective financial support package for businesses that are experiencing financial distress.


This motion calls for an extension to the moratorium on eviction from residential tenancies for the non-payment of rent due to severe rental distress as a result of COVID-19, and we note that that expired in December. It recognises that the current outbreak of the Omicron variant following the Liberals' decision to open the borders without appropriate preparation, which occurred last year, has led to a series of restrictions that have had a devastating impact on businesses across the state, particularly those in the CBD, with many people now being unable to make rent payments.


The motion calls on the Marshall government to immediately provide a moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenancies for six months in circumstances where tenants are unable to pay their rent due to COVID-19, and provide a more generous and effective financial support package for businesses that are experiencing financial distress.


This is not new to this chamber; I have talked a lot about this issue since I began my term in the parliament back in May last year. At that time, the moratorium on evictions for people experiencing financial distress was due to expire and the Greens worked hard to get it extended and appreciated the support of other parties here in this place to make that happen. We were able to secure an extension of the moratorium until December, but it expired in the lead-up to Christmas.


I am very concerned that as the economic crisis and the public health crisis have deepened, vulnerable people are not getting the protection they need. We know that if somebody is evicted out of rental accommodation they are at high risk of falling into homelessness and insecure accommodation, and that can really create long-term issues for somebody in terms of being able to access housing and have a roof over their head and a place to call home long term.


I am also very concerned about the plight of many businesses in the CBD, many of which are renting commercial tenancies. I have spoken to many businesses, and I am aware of many that are reporting that it is going to be really difficult for them to pay their rent and that, if they cannot do so, their business is going to close. What I am calling for is for the government to put a moratorium on these evictions and to actually provide some adequate support to struggling businesses.


I recognise the government have put forward a support package, but it has been inadequate. It has not hit the mark. We need to ensure that there is a more appropriate investment in support for businesses that are struggling and for vulnerable renters. I do say also that I hope that after the next election in the parliament we have an opportunity to review renters' rights here in South Australia and take steps to strengthen renters' rights more broadly.


We need to look at rent caps. It works in other places around the world, yet we have not used it here in South Australia. There is something seriously wrong when we have a housing system that treats housing as a commodity. We have a housing system that allows some people to own numerous properties when others do not have a foot in the door, do not have a place to call home, do not have a roof over their head.


I think there is something seriously wrong with that system. We need to recognise that housing is a human right. That means changing the Residential Tenancies Act to restore the balance between tenant and landlord. It means ending things like the no cause eviction process we have in South Australia. Mr Deputy President, you would be aware that when somebody reaches the end of their tenancy the landlord can simply say, 'We are not going to renew your tenancy.'


That creates a lot of anxiety for renters. It means that they are often reluctant to report issues around inadequate housing, or report maintenance issues that need to be actioned, because they live in fear and anxiety that their tenancy may be terminated or may not be renewed. That is a terrible thing and it puts tenants and it puts renters really at a significant disadvantage in terms of being able to assert their rights.


But there are other things that other states look at too. I know my predecessor in this place, the then Hon. Mark Parnell, introduced a private member's bill to provide a presumption in favour of tenants being able to have pets. Other states have done that, but we do not do that in South Australia. That needs to be looked at. Also, we have bidding wars that occur in South Australia, where if someone is trying to get a rental property they are often at the mercy of a market that allows people to just bid against each other. All these things need to be addressed.


We need to amend the Residential Tenancies Act to ensure that renters get the protection they deserve, but in the short term the government should step up and provide protection for renters experiencing financial distress during this economic crisis. I asked the minister about this yesterday. I did not receive a satisfactory answer in terms of what measures are in place to help people. It is not good enough to say, 'We will refer you on to a support service.' We need to ensure that people have protection now. We need to ensure that they know they are not going to be evicted, that they are not going to be kicked out onto the street.


Anyone who lives in the CBD area will be aware of the significant issue we face around homelessness in our state. It is a significant problem for us to address. It is deeply saddening to see more and more South Australians sleeping on the street. If we do not put these sorts of protections in place, I am very concerned that we are going to see more and more South Australians living on the streets and facing insecure housing. I commend the motion.


The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (11:46): I rise today in support of the Hon. Rob Simms' motion and thank him for his advocacy of some of the state's most vulnerable citizens in our community. When we think of the basic needs we all have, secure housing is right at the top of that list. All members of this place should be aware of the ongoing rental affordability crisis in our state. Given previous debates in this place just this week, we should all be aware of the impact of COVID-19 on the financial security of many casual workers.


While those opposite claim that their government was well prepared before the opening of our borders in November, we have many examples of the impacts they were not prepared for. Some seem not to have even been considered at all. Being prepared means planning for events before they occur. It means looking to see what happened in the past and what has happened in other states and predicting what might happen and what the impact could be. After all, it is only the government that has the most recent Omicron modelling available to them. It means learning from the past so that the outcome is better the second time around.


Two years into this pandemic, this government can hardly say the impacts of COVID-19 on our small businesses and financially vulnerable citizens were unpredictable. This government had two years of lessons from other jurisdictions. Not only could they learn from the experience of other places that had a suite of policies that had been designed to avoid the worst impacts of the pandemic ready to go but, instead of learning the lessons or maintaining these policies, this government opened up with no safety nets and no protection.


The Marshall Liberal government let our small businesses, casual employees and our most vulnerable citizens bear the brunt of COVID-19, when they should have been more prepared to protect them. Back in September, we saw the expiry of sections 8 to 10 of the COVID-19 emergency act, which had, up until then, put in place protections for rental and commercial tenants experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID pandemic. These protections protected tenants from increased rents and terminations of tenancy if the tenant was unable to pay rent due to the impact of COVID-19 on their business or employment.


Those opposite might have hoped that we were all suffering from short-term memory loss, Omicron may have been new and we may not have known much about that variant, but we did have some idea of the impact any variant of COVID-19 would have on our workforce and any business, especially the hospitality sector. The Hon. Robert Simms touched on this, but the hospitality sector has been particularly impacted.


This government did not even need to look that far to see what potential effects may occur. They could have looked to our neighbours in Sydney and Melbourne to see the impacts our state would face when this outbreak would eventually hit. In Sydney and Melbourne, casual workers were again losing shifts and their personal financial security. Mixed messages and unclear communications of restrictions saw small business hit by the shadow lockdowns—that is, customers avoiding businesses they perceived as dangerous.


In New South Wales, although dining was not restricted beyond one in two square metres, not only were concerned customers staying away and leaving dining rooms empty but staff who had no isolation available to them were unable to work. Some businesses were losing so many staff as close contacts that they were unable to be open.


As I mentioned already, all this was happening before the much more highly transmissible Omicron began to circulate in our community. The writing was on the wall. The protections for residential and commercial tenants had expired and alarm bells were being rung by multiple organisations and industry associations—as well as my colleague the Hon. Rob Simms—about the bomb that was about to go off in our state.


Yet, nothing from this government. No plan and no protections for those at risk were put in place. When this government could have extended sections 8 to 10 of the act, which would have provided a safety net in case an outbreak caused the same issues that were unfolding in other jurisdictions, it instead let them expire.


When COVID-19 first came to South Australia, the stress of the financial impacts that would be overwhelmingly borne by our casual staff and small businesses was blunted by protections put in place by the federal and state governments. JobKeeper, eviction moratoriums, tax breaks, grants and other incentives were used by all other layers of government to buoy the economy from the worst impacts of this pandemic.


These economic levers recognised the potential for the pandemic to cause significant and lasting damage. Of course no-one expected these things to last forever, only for as long as they were needed, for as long as COVID-19 threatened to wreak havoc in our community. So why was it, when our state was experiencing the pandemic most acutely, we were taking away the restrictions that the community needed?


The decision to let sections 8 to 10 expire has caused additional stress to thousands of vulnerable South Australians who are at risk of eviction through no fault of their own but from a lack of planning by this government for the predictable impacts of COVID-19, impacts that were obvious even before Omicron. We remain in the middle of a global pandemic and are feeling the worst of it in South Australia in our community without the safety nets designed to navigate the pandemic at its worst.


Labor will be supporting the Hon. Rob Simms' motion and calls upon the Marshall Liberal government to learn from their mistakes and support South Australians by recalling this parliament—which might be too late—to fix sections 8 to 10 of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act.


Question: Renters' Protection after End of Eviction Moratorium

9 February 2022

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Human Services on the topic of the rental moratorium on evictions for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Leave granted.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In May, the parliament provided renters experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 with a reprieve when it extended the moratorium on evictions until September 1. This was again extended until December but has since expired. Given the pandemic has entered a new phase, with borders being opened by the Liberals and the Omicron variant therefore running rampant, we know that the pandemic and the associated economic crisis has coincided with a rental affordability crisis in our state and there are more and more South Australians struggling to find affordable housing.


My question to the minister is: what arrangements, if any, have been put in place to ensure that no South Australian will be evicted into homelessness now that this moratorium is no longer in place?


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I thank the honourable member for his question. The government runs a number of services that assist in the homelessness prevention space. I think that certainly what we saw through COVID, especially in the early phases, was that before the financial support was made available for people who needed it, there were grave concerns about people being evicted into homelessness.


I would be hazarding a guess that in terms of people who are in the private rental market, particularly those who have sustained private rental for some time, we do see some people who come to our services, either to the South Australian Housing Authority to register for public or community housing and also to seek support from the homelessness service providers. A number of people wouldn't actually require those services, but support is always available.


I think we are in a period where we are transitioning certainly the economy and in terms of people's employment prospects, as the Treasurer has already outlined, we have very low rates of unemployment. Generally speaking, people in South Australia are doing as well as anyone in the world on that economic front. We always have services available regardless of what the particular situation is and, indeed, the queries that come across my desk are generally resolved one way or another so those support services are effective and they are working.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: has the minister advocated to her colleagues for the moratorium to be extended?


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): The honourable member may not have the benefit of how government operates, but these are cabinet decisions and, as a member of cabinet, that is my decision as well.


Protection for Martindale Hall and SA Heritage

8 February 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I want to use this opportunity to put on the record the Greens' opposition to this bill, the proposal from the Marshall government that Martindale Hall be sold off for future privatisation. What this bill seeks to do is to abolish the Martindale Hall Conservation Park and to extinguish the charitable trust established by the gift of the hall to the people of South Australia. We consider that to be an absolute travesty.


This is a building that is iconic. It belongs to all South Australians, and it should be protected as a vital piece of our history. We know, of course, what happens when the Liberals sell off our beautiful iconic buildings. We know what happens to those buildings: they sit there idle and they fall into disrepair. Such is the casualty of the Liberals' fire sale of our beautiful and iconic buildings. I recognise that the Labor Party also undertook some of that privatisation work during their time in office.


Looking around the City of Adelaide, sadly we see the consequences of this privatisation: Edmund Wright House, which has been vacant since 2015; the Adelaide GPO, which has been vacant now for two years; Davaar House, a long-term vacancy that is now in disrepair; Hotel Tivoli has been shut for eight years; Freemasons Hall is another one that is about to fall; the Newmarket Hotel has been vacant since 2017; Gawler Chambers, vacant since 2004; the former Primitive Methodist Church in North Adelaide, vacant since 2014; and the list goes on.


They are beautiful iconic buildings that have been left to decay because they have either been sold off to private enterprise or they have not been brought back into public hands. Certainly, what the Greens are calling for, as well as opposing this particular piece of legislation, is the next government to put some money on the table to buy back these beautiful buildings, to ensure that they are managed for the public good, to take steps to actually punish developers and landholders who allow these buildings to fall into disrepair and to put some money on the table to encourage activation of these beautiful buildings.


It is an absolute travesty that we have people sleeping on the street in the middle of this heatwave whilst we have beautiful buildings such as this sitting there idle, sitting there vacant, gathering dust. The Greens will not allow that to happen to our iconic Martindale Hall, and that is why I wanted to take this opportunity to put our opposition to this legislation on the public record. I hope that this legislation does not find its way back onto the Notice Paper in the new parliament.


Question: Third Party Rental Apps

1 December 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Welfare groups are calling for a ban on third-party rental payment apps that some real estate agents are forcing tenants to use, reportedly costing tenants up to $500 a year. While law requires that these apps, which add around $10 a week to rental bills, can only be used if landlords and tenants agree—and tenants must be provided with a free payment option—many tenants have reported their frustration that this cost burden has simply been added onto their weekly bills without appropriate consultation.


My question to the minister therefore is: given we know that the cost of rent continues to rise in South Australia, and that lower and modest income renters continue to be the hardest hit, is the minister aware of this practice of mandating the use of the app and its impact on the most vulnerable renters in our state, and will the minister commit to taking the issue of strengthening the Residential Tenancies Act to ensure this kind of practice does not occur to the relevant minister, the Attorney-General?


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services): I thank the honourable member for his question. I probably should correct his direction. I am not the minister for housing, I am the Minister for Human Services. Within the portfolio, I am responsible for public and social housing and some assistance for private renters, but housing generally sits across a number of portfolios and various levels of government.


In relation to the matters that he has raised about using apps, which is an expense that's falling to tenants, I am aware of this through having read media reports. I don't recall whether there was a response from Consumer and Business Services, which is responsible for managing private rents. I will certainly take the matter to the Attorney-General, who is responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act, for a response from that agency.

 


Question: SA Reopening and Vaccination Rollout for the Homeless

17 November 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing on the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for those experiencing homelessness.


Leave granted.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Back in July, the government announced its trial COVID-19 vaccination clinic for South Australians experiencing homelessness in the city, as part of its outreach program. Given South Australia's borders are set to open next Tuesday and there are an estimated 6,000 people in South Australia currently experiencing homelessness, it's critical that the vaccine rollout continues to prioritise some of our most vulnerable. My question to the minister therefore is: is the government confident that the 80 per cent vaccination target to trigger the reopening of our borders will be met with those experiencing homelessness?


The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): Starting my answer to the honourable member's question, there are difficulties in terms of assessing the level of vaccine take-up amongst the homeless community. One of the factors there is that people experiencing mental health issues, domestic violence, homelessness or a combination of these issues are not required to self-identify for the purpose of recording their vaccination status on the Australian immunisation record. This is for their safety and wellbeing, but it does mean that it is very difficult to determine how many people experiencing homelessness have been vaccinated.


The government is continuing to roll out a targeted campaign to deal with vulnerable groups, such as people experiencing homelessness. In the context of homelessness we are working particularly with key stakeholders, like the alliances and the larger providers of homeless services, to provide access to the vaccines. SA Health, the Ambulance Service and the sector are partnering to deliver a tailored approach to the vaccination of people experiencing homelessness.


I was privileged to launch the rollout for people sleeping rough in July this year at Westcare, a launch that attracted national interest. Since then, the rollout has continued across the metropolitan area, with vaccination sites being used, including SHINE, mental health facilities in the Parklands, and mobile services targeting vulnerable groups, which have been active in the suburbs of Playford, Gawler, Onkaparinga and in the regions.


The Central Adelaide Local Health Network is providing vaccines to people who attend the Hutt Street Centre, with additional vaccination services provided to a range of organisations working with the homeless community, including the Salvation Army homeless service, the Western Adelaide Homelessness Service, Streetlink, Uniting Care Gawler, Fred's Van and St Vincent de Paul Society. Vaccinations have also been provided in clinics for people experiencing domestic and family violence.


The government is continuing its efforts to ensure the vaccine is widely available, and that all vulnerable cohorts are a priority. More than 2.4 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered. I want to thank all South Australians who have rolled up their sleeve to be vaccinated, and encourage those who haven't to present at one of our clinics or engage with a GP or pharmacy. The vaccine is our pathway out of the pandemic, and it has never been easier to be vaccinated.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: noting the minister's reply, can the minister explain how close the government is to the 80 per cent vaccination target for people who are homeless, and can he provide specific information on what process is in place to ensure booster shots are being made available to those who are homeless?


The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:07): With regard to the second question of booster shots, it is certainly our anticipation that we will continue to partner within SA Health and with our partners to continue deliver vaccines into next year, including booster shots. The booster shots are particularly recommended for vulnerable communities, so it will be a particular focus with vulnerable communities. I do not have specific data in relation to the percentage of homeless people who are thought to have been vaccinated, but I will see what information I can obtain for the honourable member.